Archive for February, 2012

Kirsten And I Dropped The Punks

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Bike Stories

I actually got serious about college after Kirsten was born.  From her first breath, it was clear that she expected to eat almost every single day. Perhaps an education would help pay for that.

Being a financially strapped father, poser bike racer and college student, I would typically ride my bike to Washburn University for classes.  In 1988, when Kirsten was about 2 1/2 years old, I added a child seat to my old Colnago.  For those of you who don’t know, this was about the classiest racing machine you could have at the time.  So, imagine adding a child seat to your 2011 Cervelo with a Shimano Dura Ace Groupo.  Yes, I had other bikes for training and racing.

Anyway, I would happily pedal Kirsten to the grocery store or the 7-Eleven, while she cackled away in the baby seat on back.  Late one spring afternoon, I needed to go the school library – about three miles each way, so I hucked her on back after adjusting her little helmet adorned with lady bug stickers.

I have always been a very social cyclist and, frankly, I expect everyone else to wave and be civil as we see each other out on the road.  But, as Kirsten and I were leisurely riding to the library, a couple of young punks with shaved legs came by, passing on our left. They didn’t say a word, dismissing the “older” dude with the kid on the back as not a real cyclist.  Apparently, they missed my shaved legs and the Colnago decals.

Frankly, this pissed me off.  So, I turned around and said, “Kirsten, hold on – this is going to be fun!”   We quietly rode up behind them and held our position for about 15 seconds.  Yeah, they noticed us and picked up the pace even more.  The road up to the library has a fairly steep hill.  From the bottom they both stood up and attacked.  Kirsten and I hit the gas and passed them about 2/3 of the way up.  I raised my daughter right – she very enthusiastically said “hi” and waved at the two young men as we passed them.  They were too gassed to respond.

I have been riding bikes a L O N G time.  When I first bought these tire levers, Ronald Reagan had just been elected President, MTV was about to be launched, Post It Notes were brand new and IBM released the first PC with MS-DOS from Microsoft.  I was riding a black Colnago Mexico with a Campy Nuovo Record Group.  (Yes, I still have it)  My flat kit was really just a patch kit (in a metal box that included sand paper and a tube of glue) and a Silca frame pump.  Oh, and these levers.  (The same as Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault, of course)

If these levers had a passport it would contain stamps from France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Costa Rica and Canada.  They have also been to at least 25 states in the U.S.  They have ridden with Giro d’Italia, Olympic, World, National, Pan American and State champions – as well as, Tour de France stage winners.

About seven years ago I rode the Skull Valley route which winds up in the mountain town of Wilhoit, Arizona.  This includes about 6K of climbing and is impossibly hard at times; however, the decent is smooth and ridiculously fast into Prescott.  I let it loose and hit 53 MPH on the way down.  Turn after turn I was hoping to not hit a rock or have a flat.  Literally at the bottom of the climb is a right turn onto the road into Prescott.  Rolling up to the stop sign I flatted my front tire.  Thank goodness it didn’t happen 45 seconds before.  So, I stopped at the 7-Eleven, popped off the front wheel, replaced the old tube and aired it up with an CO2 canister.  Once finished, I went inside to buy a Coke.  The lady behind the counter said, “apparently you have done that before – I watched you and it only took you 75 seconds to fix your tire!”  It is nice to have fans.  I said, “yeah, I have done that a few times.”  There aren’t no silly, flimsy, plastic tire levers that can do the job that quickly.

For many years I kept the levers, a spare tube, CO2 and a saddle wrench in a sock which was all stored conveniently in an old water bottle with the top cut off.  In turn, this conglomeration was stored in a water bottle cage on my bike.  In 2007, when training for Ironman Florida, Coach Daren Marceau and I were still about 45 miles from home on a 110 mile training ride when I thought I noticed something brush my leg.  I never saw anything and ignored it.  Upon arriving at home, I noticed that my flat kit (OK, the sock full of stuff which included these tire levers) had bounced out the topless water bottle.  It must have been what I had felt 2 1/2 hours earlier.

After the six hour ride, I was barely lucid enough to get my bike on my car, but the thought of losing these levers, which had been such a big part of my cycling life required me to rally.  Daren and I retraced our route home and we sort of guessed at where the thing must have fallen out.  Always the optimist, Daren said that he was headed out for a motorcycle ride the next day and would go down the road and see if he could find the kit.  Although I very much appreciated the gesture, I didn’t think that there was any way I would ever see it again.

About 3PM the next day, a widely grinning Coach Marceau rang my doorbell and handed me the flat kit containing my antique levers.  I just couldn’t believe it.  He had actually found it in a ditch, pretty darn close to where we had guessed it must have been.  Coach D, I will forever be grateful for your helping me become an Ironman, but man I will never forget your returning these cycling artifacts.  I hope to pass them down to one of my kids who will be forced to keep them forever, with no idea just how important that they are to me.  These old tools have brought me new life many many times.